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Monday, 01 May 2017

A Labor of Love: Living & Renovating in Portugal - Page 2

Written by Jeannie Pontet
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A Dos Negros is a sprawling village spread approximately 1 ½ km along a hill top that commands outstanding countryside views towards the 4th century walled castle of Óbidos and the Atlantic Ocean which lies just 15 minutes drive to the west on this Silver Coast.

Wisteria covered cottages and barns snuggle tightly along its cobbled streets, potted geraniums, and bougainvillea line narrow paths and steps that incline towards the little Chapel at the center. Inhabitants’ lives are governed by the soil they toil, their extended families and their Catholic faith. Many of the elderly are totally illiterate, having received only the most basic elementary education; they began working the land from the age of eight or nine. The younger generation are gradually moving to the nearby town or even as far south as Lisbon to escape the tedium that is rural life.

The village has the basic amenities at its center, a Post Office/Junta, housing a couple of ancient computers placed in a back dusty room, serves as an “internet café”. The Saude (Surgery) is the very epicenter of the village in which those in need for companionship gather for their daily dose of gossip and, after a brief chat with kindly Doctor Jorge, are dispatched to the farmácia proudly clutching a paper they consider to be of immense importance – a prescription. To these poor folk it proves that they are indeed suffering a hardship greater than their neighbor, most likely some unknown fatal disease or perhaps an ancient curse placed upon their family back in the times Moors ruled this land.


And it is in the farmácia, waiting for their medication, they would compare notes, the more complex the diagnosis the greater the respect! It was here not so long ago that I heard the tale of an elderly lady who kept secret that she had taught herself to read. While her husband was working in the field she indulged in her secret pastime but a passing neighbor caught her and reported this idleness to her man!! “What need does she have for such frivolity? Does she not have a home to keep and a family to feed? Who does she think she is?” Her simple pleasure created a social void among the women who shunned her, and the men teased her husband all the more for having a wife who considered herself a cut above the rest. The only person to whom she could turn was Jorge the Doctor, the prescription for which was to carry on and enjoy every moment of every book she could read.


The Mini Mercado and café run by José Santos and his homely wife Maria, a jovial, rotund, toothless couple in their retirement years, stocks everything, Brillo pads and kindling logs, goat’s cheese and coal, housecoats and hosiery. In their little café to the side one can always find a flat-capped, weathered old widower, sipping on strong “Aquardente” (a very potent schnapps) washed down with bica (strong black coffee) his tanned, hirsute wiry arms prop up the bar his eyes glued to the flickering ancient TV mounted in the corner of the dark room.


The family run restaurant where the Mãe dictates to customers what is on the daily menu – generally a choice of broiled chicken or pork served with boiled cabbage, chips and rice – is a haven for those wishing to escape the nagging wife and find a peaceful place to sit without having an article of laundry dangling in one’s face. It is where the men folk can discuss their crops, compare notes on the new-fangled machinery that is supposed to make their toil a little easier, and reminisce about the good old days before motorways and tourists.
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Last modified on Monday, 01 May 2017

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